1982: North Carolina proposes a landfill in Warren County—the county with the highest percentage of black residents in the state—mobilizing hundreds of protestors. 523 people were arrested after the 6-week protest that drew national media attention. Dollie Burwell, the Rev. Leon White, and the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., of the UCC’s Commission for Racial Justice played a central role in this watershed event for the environmental justice movement.
1987: The UCC’s Commission for Racial Justice issued its landmark report 'Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.' The study found that race rose to the top among variables associated with the location of a toxic waste facility. Three out of five Black and Hispanic Americans lived in a community that housed what the EPA called an “uncontrolled toxic waste site.” This sparked a national conversation over the placement of toxic waste facilities.
1991: The UCC’s Commission for Racial Justice lead the organizing of the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. Over 600 people gathered and ultimately adopted the historic Principles of Environmental Justice. In 17 principles, the document articulates a comprehensive ethical framework that directly impacted a UN Conference on Environment and Development. The Principles have been reprinted in over a thousand publications.
2007: Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ published 'Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007.' The report found racial disparities in the location of toxic waste facilities were “greater than previously reported.” People of color comprised the majority of the population in communities within 1.8 miles of a facility. Neighborhoods with facilities clustered close together had an even higher percentage of people of color.
2013: With a vote, the UCC became the first denomination to pass a resolution calling for divestment from fossil fuel companies. The resolution pointed to a range of inequities that result from the impact of climate change, while also highlighting the need for a just and compassionate shift away from fossil fuels.
2019: The UCC became the first Christian denomination to endorse the Green New Deal. As part of this resolution, churches were called upon to advocate “for policies and legislation that advance the goals of the Green New Deal, including its commitment to address the ‘systemic injustices’ that disproportionally affect ‘frontline and vulnerable communities.’”